Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) not only threaten patients, but healthcare providers' reputations and finances, warns a risk-management advisory released by the insurer ACE Group.
In addition to risking multimillion-dollar malpractice awards, hospitals and other providers risk financial penalties for excessive readmissions, the advisory notes. The average cost of treating an HAI is $15,000, according to the paper, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) penalizes hospitals for excessive HAI rates and no longer reimburses them for treating certain HAIs.
Overall, HAIs contribute to 99,000 patients deaths and $30 billion in U.S. healthcare costs per year, ACE Group noted in an announcement.
Hospitals can mitigate clinical risk by implementing environmental hygiene measures to ensure work surfaces that can propagate bacterial growth are routinely disinfected and monitored for cleanliness, the advisory said. Measures include educating personnel about risks of contaminating everything from exam tables to lab coats and computer keyboards; designating well-trained teams to clean and disinfect treatment areas, including walls; scheduling regular tests for microbes, especially unexpected areas; and covering mattresses, pillows and furniture with waterproof material that can be cleaned with liquid disinfectant.
Additional containment strategies include:
- Screening new patients and all visitors for infectious disease, and designating safe areas to monitor and treat them
- Carrying out standardized clinical measures to prevent and control HAIs
- Using disposable equipment including blood-pressure cuffs and stethoscopes
- Building professional teams with leaders dedicated to infection control
Such HAI-management efforts do work, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report earlier this year. Central line-associated bloodstream infections fell 46 percent between 2008 and 2013, for example, and 10 select programs decreased surgical site infections (SSIs) by 19 percent over the same time period.
On the insurance side, hospitals and other providers should consider carrying coverage for loss of revenue when contaminated clinical spaces are out of service, pollution liability, worker's compensation and commercial general liability, according to the advisory.